Dinner with …
I had dream once, when I was thirteen. It was to someday be a chef. That wasn’t the whole dream though. It was to someday travel the world and see all it had to offer. To learn about all of it. All the people. All the places. All the food. I talked it about it a lot. This grand dream. So far off. So impossible to imagine. Except it wasn’t.
The only thing that limited this dream was me. And it never did. I achieved every bit of those dreams. Every. Bit. Yet, I didn’t feel successful. That didn’t seem authentic to me. It wasn’t genuine. I don’t know. Impossible standards I suppose.
Then I thought, dream bigger. And I did. And those became a reality as well. And on and on. Until I realized, I was interpreting the dream all wrong. It wasn’t a destination. The dream was the journey. A beautiful journey to be celebrated.
Several months ago I went to my family and friends and asked them to support a vision. A dream big enough for all of us. A dream inspired by all of us. And then. One by one. They all said yes, without hesitation. I asked for their trust in this part of the journey. And they all said yes. I went to friends for inspiration and support and received in multitudes. I asked my boys to be a part of this vision too. And they are. Beyond my imagination.
We started telling this story months ago on social media. The inspiration. The clients. The path of dreams becoming a reality.
I live by a code. A belief if you will. Be better. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I really fall short. But for me it becomes a benchmark for the current situation. Most of the time I kick myself pretty hard as a dad. I don’t do enough. See enough. Love enough. And there are certainly other times that I know I’ve done a really great job. Be better helps me to balance these times. If not, I’d drive myself crazy. When I fall short, and I do, I just ask myself to be better. And when faced with something that I am wholly unsure of, I just ask myself to be better. When I do super-dad things, be better. It allows me to celebrate the moment for what it is. Good and bad. Easy or tough. And it allows me to fail with grace. To try something 121 times before I quit. Each time, be better. And success, be better.
I can trace back my love for the restaurant business to one single moment. We were new to town. Having just moved here from the great white North. A total culture shock. We were Northerners. Raised on the land. Snow toughened. Probably talked too fast in a funny accent. And then we were Southerners. Just like that. A slower pace for sure, but also a difference in the people. Not good. Not bad. Just different. In the North, the winters tend to separate people. You go inside in one season and come out in the next. Human connections are almost put on hold until the thaw. In the South, there is little broken connection. There is little to no hurry to be connected. So it’s slower. A pace.
We may have been celebrating the move, a new start, a fresh beginning, or some other milestone. Eating in the best restaurant we could afford. The pageantry of our evenings marking moments. I was a fourteen year old kid. Life was big. All of it very confusing and larger than comprehension. My parents had been there a time or two. We arrived and they were greeted by name. That was a big deal. I thought they were famous. We were escorted to the table and seated. Impeccable service. Each of us treated like a king. Like we were important. I’ll never forget. A man approached our table. He was larger than life. Immaculately dressed. Groomed to the nines. A booming voice. A presence. A captivating character. There was no doubt that this man was in charge. He could have been the president, a famous athlete, a movie star. I was in awe. And he treated me like royalty. Me. A fourteen year old kid that was still trying to figure out his worth in the world. It could’ve been yesterday in memories. And yet it was over thirty years ago. A million miles and moments between then and now. And yet, this moment stands out.
Since then, he and I have shared other stories, other moments equally as powerful as this one. He raised me in this business. He was the standard by which I measured myself and others. A good standard. The right standard. I understood then, and I understand now, the importance of human connection. That is the true North. The guidepost.
I was honored to sit at his table this morning. I was honored to be able to tell this man, thirty years later, how much he meant to me. I am honored to be his friend. Since I was fourteen. aj
Tomorrow is September 11th. I remember where I was on that day. As we all do. At least those of us old enough to remember. I didn’t directly know anyone that died. But we were all touched. Our lives changed. Forever. I was driving into work that morning when I heard it on the radio. I didn’t know that gravity then. It wasn’t real yet. In some ways it still doesn’t seam real. When I got to work, everyone was belly to the bar. The whole restaurant staff. Mesmerized by the events unfolding. Eyes glued to the tv. No one talking. Bound together in that moment. Scared. Motionless. Paralyzed. This experience is not different than I’m sure we all had that day.
And yet, the true memory of that day is not solely of tragedy. It is those that chose to be the voice of hope. The voice of calm. The leaders when we didn’t know what to do. I remember that voice. I remember that man. He was my hero that day. I am sure that he was as scared and broken and hurt and terrified as anyone. But when I hear the voice in the memory it was unwavering. Be free to feel. Be free to hurt. Be free to cry. But be strong in the knowledge that we are free. aj
Moments. Memories. Authenticity. I don't know at times how to reconcile this with the rest of life. I try to live in the moment. Try. Fail. Try. Fail. Time moves so quickly. I can't keep up. And yet, this is how we mark our milestones. But. That's not true either. It's something that we invented. It doesn't exist outside of our smartphones and tablets and computers. Just yesterday one of my boys was four. Today, same kid is ten. Truly baffling. Where did it go? I know I was there for it. But where did it go? I don't want to miss this time. I don't want to look back and realize there could have been more. I am grateful I don't have to live like that. No ragrats. Scottie P. I know that if I create moments with my family. If I create memories. It slows down time to something I can at least comprehend. Then the memories mark the milestones. And not the other way around. Hospitality is the same thing. We spend so much time focused on things that just don't matter. That aren't real or genuine. That we miss the moments and memories that are. aj
How do you start a hospitality blog? There's so much to talk about. First topic should probably be single space or double space after a period? I'm a die-hard double space kinda guy. It's how I was taught. Not that it mattered then (or now) but it begs a question - why is this a hard habit to break for something that seems so trivial? I'm willing to change, I guess. If I have to. It'll have to be a conscious effort. If I let it go to autopilot then I revert to my double space agenda. Dammit. Did it again. Thankfully, there's a delete button. I am thankful today. And mesmerized. And pensive. I got to hit the delete button a little in real life. I got spend time watching my friends do amazing things. Howzit. Huh. Doesn't translate. Bad segway. Naw. Because I wasn't able. There wasn't time. Eighty hour work weeks don't lend themselves to many sidequests. Especially raising a family at the same time. If it can be done with quality, I don't know any that do. That's not good or bad. It's reality. It's a choice. It's a stupid double space and backspace. I get to see my friends in their environment today. It's real. It inspires me. I want to see people succeed. The real success. The kind that can't be bought or sold. The kind that's built on mistakes. And failure. And growth. And just being genuine. I get to tell them too how much they inspire me. That's the best gift of all. Face to face. I get to look them in the eye and let know that they touched my life. I get to start my own sidequest. Double spaced. Delete.